Monthly Archives: October 2016
When the Beatles wrote, “All you need is love à” they should have added, “and the wisdom to work through tough times, even if it means seeking professional help.” This is because counseling can be a relationship-saving resource for couples. Couples counseling is also known as marriage counseling or marriage therapy when the two people involved are married.
When Counseling Can Help
Perhaps blowups between you and your partner are occurring more regularly. Or ongoing sticky issues and irritations are causing increased tension and resentment. If you have had little success working through relationship issues, find yourselves avoiding each other, or using hostile words or actions that cause emotional or physical hurt, professional counseling may help.
Sleep or sexual problems, extreme moodiness or feelings of dissatisfaction, loneliness, sadness or failure also can be clues that something is wrong. Couples counseling can uncover the underlying issues.
There may be external factors that can add stress to your relationship, including:
- Birth or adoption of a child
- Chronic illness or disability
- Substance abuse
- Financial problems
- Career pressures
Professional counseling can help you learn coping strategies for such periods of transition or stress.
Finding a Therapist
Your local mental health association, family doctor, clergy or friends are good referral sources. Look for someone whose education and training best fits your needs and situation. For example, a gay couple may benefit from a counselor experienced in dealing with gay/lesbian issues. Make sure your chosen therapist is licensed by the state or accredited by a professional organization.
What to Expect from Therapy
Most couples meet with their therapist once a week for about an hour each session. Generally, therapy lasts for about 12 to 20 sessions. During the first session, the therapist will review the therapeutic process, confidentiality and cost. She will become acquainted with you and your partner and the problems that brought you to counseling. She will ask many questions to understand your lives and relationship as best as possible. Both you and your partner should feel comfortable talking with your counselor.
Couples counseling is different than family therapy or individual psychotherapy. In family therapy, the focus is on helping the family figure out the large problems within the entire family (including children), and helping them to find fixes (such as improving communication). In individual psychotherapy, the focus is on a single person. While that person may talk about their relationships in session, the relationships are not usually the primary focus of the counseling.
The Couples Counseling Process
For the first several sessions, the therapist will attempt to evaluate your relationship. She will try to figure out:
- What keeps you together
- What stresses your relationship
- The nature of your conflicts
- Behavioral and communication patterns
- Your strengths and weaknesses
- The power structure
- What qualities are missing or dysfunctional in your relationship
She also will study you as individuals.
Together, the two of you and your therapist will set realistic goals, which could be anything from learning how to be empathetic to figuring out new ways to negotiate problems to deciding how to share household and parental responsibilities. Your counselor will use a variety of therapeutic techniques until your goals are met or until you reach a point where either you or the therapist wants to terminate treatment.
Responsibility of the Couple
Ideally, both you and your partner will seek professional help together. But, therapy can have positive outcomes even if only one of you is willing to attend. Most important, however, is your willingness to be honest and to make changes. Although your therapist can provide direction, you are responsible for acting on such guidance. By doing so, you will enjoy improved interaction and renewed enthusiasm for your relationship.
Is your marriage alive and well, or is it time to dial 911? Chances are the health of your relationship falls somewhere in the middle — slightly out of shape and tired. Unfortunately most of us tend to take the health of a marriage for granted. And we don’t realize how important a happy, healthy relationship is until it’s time for marital CPR.
Maintaining personal health requires work — exercise, good nutrition, rest and regular checkups. No one teaches us that the same kind of maintenance is also necessary in order to keep a marriage alive. Love between a parent and child is unconditional. Love between a husband and wife is not. As divorce statistics would indicate, an untended marriage falls apart too easily. The good news is that there are ways to make a marriage survive, and better yet, thrive.
Your Marital Diagnosis
There are warning signs or “symptoms” when your marriage is “under the weather.” Here are some key symptoms:
- feelings of chronic resentment toward your spouse
- lack of laughter between the two of you
- desire to spend free time with someone other than your mate
- too much time spent playing the “blame game”
- conversations between you are laced with bitterness and sarcasm
Relationship Revival Program
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? If so, it’s time to revive your marriage by following this program.
- Make the marriage your priority, not an afterthought. Set aside regular time to be alone with your partner. If kids are in the picture, hunt for a “network” of trusted babysitters. If money is a concern, compare the cost of a night out with that of marital therapy or a divorce attorney! Get the drift? Start doing some of the things that used to bring you joy, and helped you to feel more connected. There are plenty of activities that you can do for free — a long walk, star gazing or window-shopping are all simple pleasures that can bring you closer together.
- Resuscitate your romance. Remember how the sparks flew when you first met? It’s probably not too late to rekindle the embers. Surprise your spouse with a homemade Valentine (any day of the year!) and a bottle of champagne. Light up the bedroom with candles, or put a love note in his briefcase. Last but not least, initiate lovemaking. Passion is the glue in a marriage — it helps you feel close to your mate, and makes getting through rough times a lot easier.
- Accept what you can’t change. Much marital strife is caused by the belief that you cannot be happy in your marriage as long as you must live with your partner’s bad habits or imperfections. Have you noticed that no matter how much you gripe and moan, these things don’t change? Rather than trying to control what you can’t, work around his quirks and focus on the positive. We all respond much better to praise than to criticism. And here’s the paradox: Sometimes when we stop fighting the way things are, they actually do change. No guarantees, but it’s worth a try.
- Be attractive, inside and out. “Married” doesn’t have to mean complacent. Continue to learn and experience new things, and share these with your partner. Eat right, exercise, rest and make the most of your appearance. Doing these things is taking good care of yourself, but it’s also a way of showing your mate that you want to be your best and share yourself with him.
- Improve communication and negotiation skills. Being a good listener is key to healthy communication. Even if you don’t agree with what he’s had to say, empathize with his position. This will open the door to more effective conflict resolution. If you must be critical, convert criticism into a request for behavioral change by stating it positively. Most important, apologize when you are wrong.
There are no marriages made in heaven. But by devoting time and energy to reviving your marriage, you’ll once again feel your relationship pulse beating strong and steady.